India will triple its energy consumption of 1,200 units per person per year over the next decade as part of a drive to ensure access to energy for all and to raise living standards, but environment protection will remain at the core of development goals, power minister R.K. Singh said.

Addressing delegates at a conference organized by Mint on energy efficiency titled “Transformation Agenda 2020" in the capital on 20 March, the minister said the scale of India’s energy needs as well as the potential for energy savings were immense. While Asia’s third-largest economy pursues its inclusive growth agenda and give electricity access to all households, the potential for energy efficiency to make savings is mind boggling, said the minister.

The government is pursuing a Rs16, 320 crore project called Saubhagya to give last-mile electricity connectivity to about 40 million households by end of 2018.

Singh said that India will continue to build on the work already done on efficient use of bulbs, appliances and buildings, to ensure that economic development and emission reduction go hand in hand. “It is this consciousness of responsibility that drives us to embrace energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy. We have become a leader in clean energy with the scale of our programme," said the minister.

Singh said that India is working towards having entirely energy-neutral buildings through use of solar power and take its energy efficiency programme covering appliances to the next level.

The country’s star rating of appliances based on their energy efficiency has helped in saving energy up to 50% so far and a further saving of 35% is possible through super star ratings, above five star ratings, said the minister. 

Singh said that India will surpass its target of having 175 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and will be having 200GW before the deadline. At present, India has 334GW of installed power generation capacity, out of which renewable sources including small hydro power projects account for 63GW. 

Power consumption growth has an almost one to one correlation with the overall economic growth rate. With the projected rise in per capita energy consumption and improved energy access, installed capacity is also expected to go up sharply.

Singh also said that there is huge potential for energy efficiency in the housing sector which accounts for about a third of the total energy consumption.

Housing accounts for 40% of energy consumption the world over and in India, the sector accounts for 35%, offering huge potential for energy savings. The minister said that the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has come out with efficiency norms for commercial buildings and are working on such norms for homes.

India is on a massive drive to replace incandescent bulbs with light emitting diode (LED) bulbs and is installing LED street lights. Singh said that India has already replaced over 5 million street lights with LED bulbs out of a target for replacing 13.4 million street lights.

Singh also urged other nations to reduce their energy consumption by efficiency enhancing measures.

“As we develop, we develop as a responsible country which leaves behind for future generations an environment that is much healthier… We are trying to ensure that the energy intensity of our development is not very high so that we can achieve the intended development with less emissions. We believe that countries which consume more energy have a greater responsibility in cutting emissions," the minister said. He also said that despite its lower per capita energy consumption, India is taking a lead in embracing energy efficiency.

“In countries with high per capita consumption of energy, the scope for energy efficiency is also high," said the minister, adding that India is taking the lead, not a reciprocal position, in achieving energy efficiency.

Singh said that as universal energy access is achieved, the installed power generation capacity will also go up. “We need development to bring people out of poverty. Every country has a right to develop and we shall develop. But at the same time, we have a responsibility and we are conscious about it," said the minister. India has made a commitment to contribute to global efforts to cut down carbon emissions. In October 2015, just before the Paris Climate Agreement, New Delhi announced its climate goals—or intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs)—pledging to reduce the emissions intensity of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels, and achieve 40% of its cumulative electric power from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources.

Energy efficiency is central to India’s INDCs which state that the nation would aim to promote energy efficiency in the economy, notably in industry, transportation, buildings and appliances.

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